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New Release: Write Descriptions Your Readers Won’t Forget

I’m so delighted to let you know that a new masterclass-in-a-book from Stant Litore is out in both kindle and paperback editions: Write Descriptions Your Readers Won’t Forget. Get your copy today – and if you order directly through this website, consider leaving a tip to help as I build out the rest of the Litore Toolkits for Fiction Writers!

Cover art by Lauren K. Cannon.

Excite your reader on every page. Vivid description isn’t a static listing of attributes; instead, it’s the live wire that runs through every scene in your story, and both information and emotion travel to the reader along that hot current. It’s how you make both a character’s exterior world, their interior emotional life, and specific interactions between the two vivid and unforgettable. Good description is electric, and it shocks sleepy readers awake. It helps us sit up with a gasp and pay attention.

In 30 exercises, discover an entire toolkit for electrifying your prose and master fresh strategies for describing characters, settings, emotions, and actions in ways that leave the reader breathless.


“Not only is the advice great, but there’s a warmth to the chapters that makes writing inviting rather than intimidating.” – Todd Mitchell, author of The Traitor King and The Last Panther

“There are other worldbuilding books out there; this is the one you want.” – Travis Heerman, author of the Ronin trilogy

“A master class: Litore has created an accessible, comprehensive approach.” – S.G. Redling, author of Flowertown and Damocles

“This is a clear, comprehensive, and beautifully written guide that will not only help emerging writers to find their voices and build imaginative worlds and characters, but one that will also prove invaluable to experienced writers seeking to spark their creative impulses or deepen the worlds they create.” – Angela Mitchell, author of Falada and Dancing Days

“Learning to write fiction that moves readers is a lifelong pursuit, but successful writers often struggle with showing others how they do it. For that, you need a good teacher. Stant Litore is an extraordinary teacher, and in Write Stories Your Readers Won’t Forget he shares what he knows in clear, practical and profound chapters. Packed with insight, examples, and exercises, Stant’s book will cut years off your learning curve.” – James Van Pelt, author of Pandora’s Gun


Stant Litore is the author of the nonfiction titles Lives of Unforgetting and On the Other Side of the Night, and the fiction titles Ansible, The Zombie Bible, Dante’s Heart, and The Dakotaraptor Riders. Best known for his weird fiction, alternate history, and science fiction, he holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Denver (as Daniel Fusch). He has served as a developmental editor for the independent writers’ collaborative Westmarch Publishing, and his work on character development has been featured in Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. Litore’s fiction has been acclaimed by NPR, has served as the topic for scholarly work in Relegere and Weird Fiction Review, and he has been hailed as “SF’s premier poet of loneliness.” He is fascinated by ancient languages, history, and religious studies. He does not currently own a starship or a time machine but would rather like to. He lives in Colorado with his three children and hides from visitors in the basement library beneath a heap of toy dinosaurs, tattered novels, comic books, incomprehensibly scribbled drafts, and antique tomes. He is working on his next novel, or several.

He has taught these classes for Clarion West, Pikes Peak Writers Conference, Writing the Other, Apex Writers, Castle Rock Writers Conference, and other professional events for fiction writers.

The next toolkit in this series will be O to 60: Write Pacing Your Readers Won’t Forget, available for pre-order on Amazon and arriving June 30, 2022.

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How Armpits Used to Be Romantic, and Bowels Used to Be Sexy

Painting of the Acropolis by Leo von Klenze

We take it for granted that the heart is the seat of the emotions. But to ancient peoples in the Mediterranean world, you felt powerful emotions in your gut. In the very bowels of your being. That was where fear twisted you in knots. That was where rage kindled its dark flames. And that was nearer… (well, nearer than the heart, anyway) …the location where desire blossomed in all its heat. We typically sanitize ancient texts in translation by changing ‘bowels’ or ‘viscera’ to ‘heart’ when the topic on the page is powerful emotion, so that we can read without imagining our heroes and heroines suffering bowel movements whenever they are furious, joyous, or passionate. But when Zechariah sings his beautiful Benedictus at the birth and naming of his son, John the Baptist, he rejoices that “through the guts of the mercy of our God,” his people will be saved.

And when the betrothed in The Song of Songs says that her lover “put his hand at the hole in my door, and my heart was moved for him,” that’s not quite what the poem says. A door is assumed because the beloved was just knocking, but when the young lover says simply that her beloved put his hand at her opening, you are meant to read it in an erotic sense, as well. The whole passage teases like that. And it wasn’t her heart that was moved, but her guts, her insides. The oldest English translations use “bowels,” but bowels are no longer as sexy as they once were (and no matter how passionate and overpowering the bowel movement may be, the bowels don’t get any sexier to us).

Many things about the body were once sexier than they are now. For the Romans, an intensely erogenous zone was the space between the nose and the upper lip. And when youths in the 13 Colonies would ride to join General Washington, their sweethearts would rub an apple in their armpit and give it to them so they could take some of their lover’s scent with them on the road. Or the soldier would leave a similar apple behind for the lover remaining at home. A freedom apple.

Tl;dr: Armpits used to be romantic and guts used to be sexy. And if we realized just how much we take for granted about the way we think and talk about our bodies, we would be moved and would suffer quaking in the very bowels of our being.

Want more language nerdery? Check out Lives of Unforgetting: What We Lose in Translation When We Read the Bible.

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Cover Reveal: Write Stories Your Readers Won’t Forget!

Cover art: Write Stories Your Readers Won't Forget

Write the story you’ve always wanted to write. Stant Litore’s third toolkit for writers will empower you to sharpen your story’s thematic intensity. Theme is your answer to the question, Why does this story matter? Why does this story matter to each of your characters, and why does it matter to you? Why this story? What hold does it have on your heart? If you find the most compelling answer to that question – and then write that answer into every scene in your book – you’ll have a story that will matter to readers, too.

“This toolkit provides a sequence of 30 story-building exercises plus guidelines on how to craft a thematic outline for your story and use it as a potent tool for revision. In these pages, explore how character, theme, and plot interact; how what matters most in your story gets expressed through each character’s unique voice and gets performed dramatically through your plot; and discover how a mastery of theme can help you establish a powerful threshold text to begin your story, solve ‘the saggy middle,’ and deliver a denouement that your readers will never forget.”

Write Stories Your Readers Won’t Forget – the new addition to the acclaimed of classes-in-a-book for writers that brought you Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget and Write Worlds Your Readers Won’t Forget – arrives February 24, and you can pre-order your copy today! I am excited to bring you this new toolkit!

Paperback | Kindle

The cover art is by Lauren K. Cannon, and is a detail from commissioned art for my work in progress, By a Slender Thread.

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Write Stories Your Readers Won’t Forget: Available for Pre-Order!

Hello writers, readers, storytellers, and people who love tales and sagas of every kind: I am very excited to let you know that I am releasing a third toolkit for writers, entitled Write Stories Your Readers Won’t Forget. The kindle edition is available for pre-order now, and this unique class-in-a-book, from the creator of the acclaimed courses Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget and Write Worlds Your Readers Won’t Forget, will be released on February 24. Come pre-order it today!

From the back cover: “Write the story you’ve always wanted to write. Stant Litore’s third toolkit for writers will empower you to sharpen your story’s thematic intensity. Theme is your answer to the question, Why does this story matter? Why does this story matter to each of your characters, and why does it matter to you? Why this story? What hold does it have on your heart? If you find the most compelling answer to that question – and then write that answer into every scene in your book – you’ll have a story that will matter to readers, too.

“This toolkit provides a sequence of 30 story-building exercises plus guidelines on how to craft a thematic outline for your story and use it as a potent tool for revision. In these pages, explore how character, theme, and plot interact; how what matters most in your story gets expressed through each character’s unique voice and gets performed dramatically through your plot; and discover how a mastery of theme can help you establish a powerful threshold text to begin your story, solve ‘the saggy middle,’ and deliver a denouement that your readers will never forget.”

Cover reveal in two weeks.

Available for pre-order here:

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Black Friday – The Ships Stand at the Shore

Black Friday: The Ships Stand at the Shore

All ebooks 25% off when you purchase directly from the author.

Stant litore puppes – “the ships stand at the shore.” The meaning behind my pen name is the story that beats at the heart of every work of fiction or nonfiction I’ve written. The city may be in flames behind you and you may be fleeing in the night, but ahead of you, someone is calling back, “Hurry! Hurry! The ships stand at the shore! The anchors are already up!” Once you embark on the wine-dark sea during your dark night, you can’t know where the waves will take you or what awaits you on the further shore. Perhaps you’ll find a new home. Perhaps you’ll found Rome. Ash is fertile, and forests grow from battlefields.

I invite you to come explore both my alien, fictional worlds and the nonfiction in which I take ancient texts and make them strange again. Great reads await.

Stant Litore

All ebooks in the sale are available as MOBI kindle editions (and most as EPUB, as well); you can email the ebook to your e-reader’s email address or transfer it to your device by USB connection. If you love my work, leave a tip and help me make more of it!

Explore the sale…

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Hineni – Here I am!

The story of Samuel as a child has always moved me. God calls Samuel in the middle of the night, calling his name in the dark, and little Samuel says, “Hineni – here I am!” And he gets up and goes running to Eli, the priest who takes care of him, thinking Eli has called him. And Eli, old and blind and very weary, keeps telling him, “I didn’t call you, Sammy; go back to bed!” And this keeps happening. And I love that story, both because Eli and Samuel are so human in it – the child waking up repeatedly in the middle of the night and running to your bedside, and the old man groaning like Samuel L. Jackson (“go the f to sleep!”) and because of what it suggests about what God sounds like. When God really has something to say, he doesn’t sound like the thundering voice that televangelists, radio show talk hosts, and other pundits like to talk about. He doesn’t sound High and Almighty and wrathful in a way that Americans would recognize. He sounds like a dad (and specifically the kind of dad that a child would run to eagerly after waking from sleep). Quiet, intimate, not a windstorm or an earthquake but a small voice calling your name. I love that story. It’s the first story I ever learned in sunday school as a child, and it’s truer than many tales I’ve been told about my God by others since.

I was reading that story again this morning.

Stant Litore

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Ten Years a Dragon

“I have learned that hope, which I had thought small and delicate like a moth in the night, can be hard as steel, a blade in your hand.”

Lives of Unstoppable Hope is a tale of fathers and daughters, of a genetic condition so rare that only a handful of other children in my country have been diagnosed with it, and of unconquerable spirit and of spirit that conquers. I hope you’ll pick up a copy. Today, against all odds, my Inara is ten years old, and she is magnificent.

Get Lives of Unstoppable Hope
on Amazon | Direct from author (paperback) | Direct from author (ebook)

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Peace is Not Quiet

“Peace’s sister is justice.” Here is why we get ‘peace’ wrong – and why making peace (real peace) is about storytelling and story-hearing.

(Transcript of the image: “You keep pairing me with quiet,” Peace said, “but my true companion is the mighty clamor of chains being ripped clean from the wall.” – Lort Hetteen.)

Peace’s sister is justice:

“Peace was more than stillness. More than sleep. More than numbness, more than the absence of conflict. Peace was consolation and wholeness. Peace was two men breaking bread together, forgiving an old quarrel. Peace was a mother holding her infant up to its father for the first time, or a mother opening her eyes to greet her child after long illness. Peace was two lovers in each other’s arms after a long, good night. Peace was an open door and a wall torn down.”

That’s from No Lasting Burial, a novel that you can get here: Or on Amazon: You would really like the book.

Here is why we think of peace as quiet, when it is anything but:

“The word ‘eirene’ in Koine Greek is profoundly different from ‘peace’ in English, to such an extent that when we translate it as ‘peace’ and read it in an English New Testament, we may read from the text a meaning opposite to that a first-century Christian would have. Consider what we often mean when we say ‘peace’ in English. We tell our dead to rest in peace, we ask for peace and quiet, we ‘make peace’ by ending a battle—because our ‘peace’ is a descendant of the Roman ‘pax,’ which means the absence of conflict. It means order, silence. Yet for many, the Pax Romana was a false peace and an oppression. The Greek word is ‘eirene,’ which comes from the verb eiro, which means to tie or weave. An appeal to eirene is not a call for order or the cessation of conflict; it is a call for interdependency—for a community ‘woven together.’ In a perfectly ordered pax, in a stable status quo with no conflict, people may find themselves stacked on top of each other in orderly castes and not woven together at all; lives may be prevented from full-flourishing because privileging the absence of conflict above all else keeps issues from being resolved, reconciled, or forgiven. But in eirene, we don’t silence dissent or brush issues and conflicts under the rug—*we* are the rug. Woven together in community like a thousand colored threads in a brilliant tapestry. … Rather than resting on top of each other in separate layers of society, the writers of the Greek New Testament imagined an integration of all people into the warp and weft of a shared community.”

We need more of that kind of peace. That is the peace I will pray for, yearn for, fight for, and try always, with my stories, to weave. The quote is from Lives of Unforgetting: What We Lose in Translation When We Read the Bible, which you can get here: Or on Amazon: People who have read it call it a must-read.

Real peace requires hearing everyone’s story, and creating the conditions in which everyone’s story can be heard. One more quote on peace and justice, from a novel:

“For Dmitri, raised by Ticktocks and abandoned by Ticktocks, justice was an objective thing. Your clock tells wrong or it tells right. Sometimes, the universe’s clock is off the hour and has to be set right. Everything must be counted and accounted for, especially blood spent and spilled. But Katya and I are of the humming people. For us, justice is not a matter of the hours told right but of songs finished, melodies made complete, tales that reach satisfying ends, and no teller’s tale ending too soon. My Mom’s tale ended too soon. No matter how hard the story, you don’t give up until it’s told. When you see another trying to sing and they can’t, you help them. If someone has no voice, you help them make a drum and you learn sign. If someone is captive, slaved by raiders, you break their bonds, take the gag from their mouth, and get them out into the free prairie where they can sing again. If red rain falls, you get everyone under shelter where the hum of their heartbeats can continue, however frightened and quick. You never give up, just as the Founder herself never gave up. You sing and you love and you hum with life until your very last breath, and you do what you can so others get to breathe and sing, too, until all our tales and all our lives are braided together.”

That’s Sasha Nightwatcher speaking, from Incursion (The Dakotaraptor Riders, Book One), which you can find here: Or on Amazon: Or on Audible: And you would love it – it’s an exciting read and a thrilling ride over an alien prairie.

It takes place on the planet Peace, which is not a quiet planet.

Stant Litore

P.S. If you have been loving my work, whether the fiction or the nonfiction, please come support my work on Patreon: A membership at a very small amount gets you a lot of great reads, and it helps me do more of this. The stories we tell are how we weave peace, and I hope mine will do a small part in that. Come join me. I could use the help, and you could use the stories.

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The Plague of Kaiju Frog

One day, I am going to write the version of the Exodus story in which Egypt, rather than being plagued by millions of tiny frogs, is hit by one giant, hungry, Kaiju Frog. Leaping past the pyramids at Giza and alarming the night with its thunderous croak! Hopping to crash into the roof of Pharaoh’s palace, mistaking the sun-heated brick for a colossal lilypad. Long-tongued, slurping up citizens like flies.

(This post brought to you because a friend reminded me of how in Hebrew, the singular rather than the plural is used for the Plague of Frog.)


P.S. Want more language-and-the-bible nerdiness? You’ll want this book, Lives of Unforgetting:

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Stories that Make Us Smaller, Stories that Make Us Bigger

Stories give us opportunities to explore our instinctive responses to the other; vicariously, we discover opportunities to either welcome or reject the marvelous encounter with the other. Which we choose is then a matter of how limited or expansive our imagination might be. Like Lovecraft, we might stop at fear, or like Borges, we might hold all possibilities in magnificent tension, open our eyes, and say, “Well met by moonlight, stranger.”

That is a gift—one of seven gifts that speculative fiction has for us in this dark hour. Often sold at bookstores as “science fiction and fantasy,” sometimes as horror, sometimes snuck into the shelves of “literary” fiction, speculative fiction simply means wonder stories. Fiction that speculates, that asks improbable questions, that indulges curiosity, that climbs back down the ladder to look at the strange thing that is approaching from behind, to face it without fear, to face it like Theseus facing the King Horse, holding out a lump of salt. These are the stories we need right now, and I want to talk with you about why, and what healing and opening of our hearts and imaginations might be possible if we allow it. We live in a time when we are being asked to accept stories told by people whose hearts are famished and grinchlike, stories that make us smaller; we are in such need of stories that make us bigger, stories that empower us to imagine larger worlds than the cages we have been constructing for ourselves. Stories that help us imagine that the fence between us and the other is no insurmountable barrier, and that all the fences and all the walls between us and our many kindred on this earth are unworthy of our respect, that we needn’t heed them, that it is better to break them, or tumble them, or clamber over them with a canteen of water, with a blanket to offer warmth, with ears ready to hear another’s story.

– from the opening chapter of On the Other Side of the Night

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The Night Land

This week’s read for me is The Night Land, which I last read ten years ago, and previously, ten years before that. That novel, published in 1912, was incredibly formative for me, and I have never read another book that rivals it for extravagance and scope of imagination; in that respect, it dwarfs later science fiction and fantasy. Tolkien and Lovecraft and early sword and sorcery pulp writers all borrowed a great deal of imagery and mood from it; Minas Morgul is the House of Silence rebuilt, and the volcanic and ashen desolation of Mordor owes much to the magma-lit and poisoned emptiness of the Night Land, and the chill dread of the Ringwraiths to Hodgson’s silent Shrouded Ones; Lovecraft’s more abstract horrors are the love-children of Hodgson’s pneumavores and the alien gods of late nineteenth-century horror, and the mood of cosmic, existential horror is something he gets directly from Hodgson, who was less racist than H.P. (by a lot) and probably more sexist; Conan and Jirel of Joiry both fought the offspring of the Night Land’s monsters; Gene Wolfe and Jack Vance both wrote their own night lands in response. The Night Land stands in the distant past of the genre like the Watching Thing in its own pages: grotesque, immense, unmoving, a brooding presence watching a tortured landscape.

The Night Land is both obnoxiously brilliant in its imagination and command of mood, and obnoxiously bad in its treatment of its characters. It is also famously difficult to read, though I think that difficulty is overstated; I personally don’t mind baroque and archaic prose at all, but then, I am an odd duck who once wrote a dissertation on Shakespeare and seventeenth century drama, and who gets more joy out of Homer and Sappho than Hemingway or Heinlein or Asimov.

No, the flaw isn’t really the prose; it’s the author’s shipwrecked commitment to writing an erotic story in the second half of his fantasy novel, impaired by a complete inability to do so. He has a thirteen-year-old Edwardian-era virgin’s idea of how to write a woman or scenes of romantic love, and those parts are just obnoxiously bad. Really obnoxiously bad. His hero and heroine are intended to have a BDSM relationship, but while in another writer’s hands that would be romantic and exciting, in William’s hands… well, there’s only so many pages of ‘she giggled and was most full of Naughtiness, and I did spank her again, as you will understand surely’ that a reader can take.

So I don’t usually recommend The Night Land as a read for my readers, but I mention it as a key influence on the worlds and mood in my fiction. It was the first of the ‘dying earth’ genre, and as a younger writer I wanted to create stories in the dark world of The Night Land, where, millions of years in the future, the Last of Humanity (consisting of the survivors and descendants of every culture on earth) hold cosmic horrors at bay with only heroism, love, and spinning saws that flare and flash in the dark. So in 2014 I wrote Ansible 15715 as a kind of fan fiction (an origin story about the arrival of the pneumavores on our earth); then I wrote another story, and another. And if The Night Land tells the middle of the story of that far-future world, the Ansible Saga — Ansible: A Thousand Faces, consisting of ten episodes ranging from short story to novel in length — dissects and retells the middle and adds the origin and also the story of its end (and new beginning).

Photo of a hand holding a copy of the Ansible Saga omnibus

Ansible is an elegy for humanity as well as a horror fiction and a love story, and ultimately, against all odds, a tale of the possibility and triumph of love of the other. Like Hodgson’s original, it becomes, midway through, a love story charged with romance, but here the patriarchal power-fantasy hero-telepath and his inexplicably vapid spankette are replaced by a time traveling, shapeshifter, hijabi heroine-telepath and the bi, lesbian, and pan women who love and are loved by her across millons of years of the defense of humanity and across transitions between bodies, species, and worlds. But the mood is intact, and the theme of love and courage when faced with what absolutely appears to be the final dark, in a tale that pendulum-swings between the extremes of utter and irrevocable loneliness and scenes of human intimacy that can survive any nightfall. Like the villain of Ansible 15718 (the fifth of the ten chapters in Ansible), in writing this saga, I devoured what I loved (The Night Land) and took up residence inside its shell and carcass — but I hope that, like the heroines of Ansible, I sung such a song of fresh beauty inside that shell. It is, though, ultimately less fan fiction than a fan-hijacking, where The Night Land becomes a chrysalis for a new tale that nonetheless consists chemically of all the ingredients of the original.

Now Ansible: A Thousand Faces is finished, and has been finished for eleven months. You can find it here: I think it’s my best work. (So far.) If Jurassic Park inspired (at a distance) my dinosaur fiction, and The Night of the Living Dead provoked my Zombie Bible, The Night Land became the rough map across which my Ansibles traveled. It’s The Night Land reimagined from another century’s perspective (our own).

Now I return to read The Night Land a third time, in all its beauties and its awfulness too. I read it for the high-voltage charge it gives to my imagination, making ideas explode in the sky of my mind like dying stars. Again I will curl up in a blanket on the barren Downward Slope with X, alone in a world of total darkness, listening in the terrible silence for the faint, longing telepathic call of the beloved, somewhere out there across the emptiness of a dead world; again I will peer out through the telescopes mounted above humanity’s last library; again I will gaze up in wonder at a crashed spaceship, derelict on a tower of rock for four million years, a relic of humanity’s voyages; again I will stand on the decks of the walking cities, following the dying sun forever westward during the long centuries of the earth’s slowing rotation. And who knows what ideas will drive me to my notebook to scribble and sketch and muse, this time.

I would like to think, maybe a little arrogantly – or maybe just hopefully – that my own Ansible: A Thousand Faces will have that very effect on some other readers and writers, while proving considerably less difficult to read. From the beginning of the earth to the end of the universe and beyond, from a telepathic gift to the australopithecines to a pitched battle in a future of forever night, from a medieval library (in what’s now Uzbekistan) to an alien planet of rain forests populated by sentient trees, Ansible is my imagination run loose and amuck, with all of time and space as its canvas, and I hope you will enjoy the story, which is about the story of humanity as an ever-changing and neverending song, endlessly varied yet woven on one chorus of hope and community, through all of time. And I think you may fall in love with Sahira and Rasha and the Sentinel of the Night Land and their companions. They have quite a story to share with you.

Stant Litore

P.S. You can find The Night Land everywhere; it is 109 years old and public domain. There is also a fandom site for it — — with fan fiction and art depicting The Night Land. A little music, too.

You can find Ansible: A Thousand Faces here:



Audiobook, performed by the talented Amy McFadden:

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Wild Adventures This Summer (Stant Litore on Audiobook)

Stant Litore on audiobook - photo shows a listener with headphones against pink background - photograph by Elice Moore on Unsplash

Hi everyone! I want to ask you to check out my science fiction and fantasy audiobooks, because they’re amazing. They’re read by star narrator Amy McFadden (and a couple by the talented Laila P and Yi Ming Sofyia Xue), and they include:

Find them all here:

Starting this year, I will also be releasing some additional audiobooks read by me. In the docket: Lives of Unforgetting; the rest of The Zombie Bible; Dante’s Heart; Dante’s Rose; Lives of Unstoppable Hope; On the Other Side of the Night; Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget; Write Worlds Your Readers Won’t Forget. Now that the house isn’t burning down or flooding and my children are safely out of the hospital, I’ll be resuming audiorecording in my home studio tonight. Meanwhile, come listen to the twelve audiobooks that are already up! They are adventures you’ll never forget.

Stant Litore

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The “Proverbs 31 Wife” is Not the “Virtuous Woman” but the “Daring Woman”

Still life of a beautiful old book and a rose in a wineglass

(Nothing in this excerpt will surprise my Jewish readers, but I wish more of my other readers knew! tl;dr: The Hebrew “eshet chayil” in Proverbs 31 does not mean “virtuous woman” in the modern sense, far from it. It means “woman of valor” or daring woman.)

Proverbs 31, from a Hebrew wisdom text, has been treated as one basis for defining “family values” in some Christian communities in the U.S., and has frequently been put to the purpose of subjugating women and validating rigid gender hierarchy. In most Christian translations of Proverbs 31, men are told to praise and admire “the virtuous woman” or “the good woman” (or, in a few versions, the “capable woman” or the “capable wife”). But the Hebrew eshet chayil does not mean “virtuous woman.” It means “woman of valor.” (Jewish translations into English, such as the JPS, get this right.)

In his annotations to The Hebrew Bible, Robert Alter parses the word like this: “…vigor, strength, worth, substance. It is a martial term transferred to civic life.” He also notes the word shalal (“prize, loot”) in the line that follows: “The heart of her husband trusts her / and no prize does he lack” (Proverbs 31:11). It is as though the woman of valor is being compared to a victorious warrior returning home with spoils after war. (In fact, in this metaphor, the husband is the one awaiting the spoils-laden return of the warrior who has his heart; the gender roles a modern reader would expect are flipped.)

In our English Bibles, we often get “virtuous,” “good,” or other adjectives suggestive of moral character because the translation committee commissioned by King James I four centuries ago translated eshet chayil in this way. Because that Authorized Version became our sacred text, future committees have dutifully followed suit. But in the seventeenth century, the word “virtuous” made somewhat more sense; the Victorians hadn’t yet gotten their hands on the word (and wouldn’t for another 250 years). At the time, “virtuous” still suggested the Italian virtù, meaning manliness, purposeful action, and bravery—not moral purity or goodness. Vir is Latin for “man,” and we get from it not only the English word virtue but also virility. The “virtuous woman” in Proverbs 31 is the very same woman whom the King James translation tells us is clothed “in strength and honor,” like a warrior (Proverbs 31:25).

However, the Hebrew eshet chayil doesn’t suggest manliness or masculinity. It suggests valor. The woman of Proverbs 31 is brave, persistent, audacious, resourceful, and ready for anything. In that chapter, we find her running a business. We find her planning for the future, charting a course toward her dreams. A more apt translation of eshet chayil into contemporary English may well be “a daring woman.” Or at least, we could adopt the Jewish translation and go with “valorous woman”; it is far more accurate.

What I want us to notice is the wide gap between the “daring,” bold woman and the “virtuous,” well-behaved woman. This gap persists in our modern Bibles for two reasons. First, the fact that the meanings of many words have shifted dramatically over the past four hundred years, so that words that meant one thing to the readers of King James’ 1611 Authorized Version often convey something completely different to us now. Second, we bring with us into the Bible, eisegetically, a bias from our own culture and our religious tradition, an expectation that in those pages we will find meek, submissive women—and instructions for women to be subservient beings. In reality, little of that is in the text. That’s in us; we bring it with us when we translate or read the book. We insert it because we expect it. And once it’s there, it gets used within our religious communities to justify and reinforce a subjugation and marginalization of women that may be faithful to the nineteenth-century Victorian ideal of “the angel in the house” but that is unbiblical and anachronistic.

I wish to remind my fellow Christians: you and I, we did not become Christians to learn from the Victorians or to run our households in the Victorian way. That’s not why we’re here.

– Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Lives of Unforgetting: What We Lose in Translation When We Read the Bible

You can find a related post here: The Misleading Translation of “Wives, Submit,” … and a Tale of Battle-Ready Women

You can find the book here in my bookshop:

Or on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere…

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The Simple Joys: Reading The Hobbit with My Daughter

A photo of pages from The Hobbit

River and I decided we’re going to reread Tolkien, from the start, from The Hobbit. While we read together this afternoon with Inara listening, River sang the dwarves’ song with me.

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away, ere break of day
To seek our pale enchanted gold…

And it is the simple joys like that which get us through the longest year. What have your simple joys been, amid the griefs of the year?

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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The Year of the Pandemic: A Year With No Months, But With Many Stories

Etymology of understanding - Photo of a woman gazing out

What a strange year it’s been, my friends. I’ve started measuring time in stories told and stories enjoyed, because I can hardly keep track of the calendar months (decades?) since last March.

So for my children and I, the months were Dark Crystal, Avatar, Korra, She-Ra, and RWBY. I can tell you about our experiences in each of those months. I can tell you about the months of my own stories told: the months of Ansible, Dakotaraptor Riders, and On the Other Side of the Night.

But I can’t tell you what June was like, nor September. Did June actually exist?

April existed.

Last April was the cruelest month. I lost someone important to me in April.

For the rest, I’ll just remember the months of the stories my children and I shared together.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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Into the Library

Comma splice - image of books lying open

I love libraries.

When the pandemic has passed, I am going to spend so much time at the library.

Many moments that have stayed with me from stories I’ve loved are scenes about fictional libraries. There is, for example, the library of Bastian Balthazar Bux in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, that the child Bastian visits, where he finds the collected volumes of all the stories and dreams he has ever imagined but hasn’t written down – “and the walls were lined with tiers upon tiers of books.”

And there is Ultan’s Library, in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun:

“We have books here bound in the hides of echidnes, krakens, and beasts so long extinct that those whose studies they are, are for the most part of the opinion that no trace of them survives unfossilized. We have books bound wholly in metals of unknown alloy, and books whose bindings are covered with thickset gems. We have books cased in perfumed woods shipped across the inconceivable gulf between creations – books doubly precious because no one on Urth can read them. We have books whose papers are matted of plants from which spring curious alkaloids, so that the reader, in turning their pages, is taken unaware by bizarre fantasies and chimeric dreams. Books whose pages are not paper at all, but delicate wafers of white jade, ivory, and shell; books too whose leaves are the desiccated leaves of unknown plants. Books we have also that are not books at all to the eye: scrolls and tablets and recordings on a hundred different substances. There is a cube of crystal here – though I can no longer tell you where – no larger than the ball of your thumb that contains more books than the library itself does. Though a harlot might dangle it from one ear for an ornament, there are not volumes enough in the world to counterweight the other. All these I came to know, and I made safeguarding them my life’s devotion… In the library is a room reserved for children. In it are kept bright picture books such as children delight in, and a few simple tales of wonder and adventure. Many children come to this room, and as long as they remain within its confines, no interest is taken in them. From time to time, however, a librarian remarks a solitary child, still of tender years, who wanders from the children’s room … and at last deserts it entirely. Such a child eventually discovers, on some low but obscure shelf, The Book of Gold. Unless my memory betrays me, the cover is of black buckram, considerably faded at the spine. Several of the signatures are coming out, and certain of the plates have been taken. But it is a remarkably lovely book. I wish that I might find it again… The child, as I said, in time discovers The Book of Gold. Then the librarians come – like vampires, some say, though others say like fairy godparents at a christening. They speak to the child, and the child joins them. Henceforth he is in the library whenever he may be, and soon his parents know him no more.”

When I wrote Ansible: A Thousand Faces, I resolved to add a library of my own to the list of fictional, imagined archives. So I added the Memory Blossom. It is humanity’s last library, at the end of time, and as humanity is at risk of dying, those who battle for our descendants’ survival battle also to defend the library. Those words – DEFEND THE LIBRARY – are written in Arabic over the entrance. And the reader first encounters the library during a battle just inside the door:

“Two sentinels run up the steps, one passing me on my left, one on the right. One black and one white with a shock of red hair. A woman’s language or continent of origin does not matter to Lucia, only her willingness to defend humanity’s children. They take up positions at either side of the door, Saws ready. I climb to meet them, wiping blood from my brow, a thunder-beat of fury in my heart. Every tome in my library has a digital sister, written invisibly into the archives that live in the walls and cannot be burned or broken, but those books that died behind us in a blaze of bullets were crafted with great labor by human hands, by hands whose owners will never again speak or make, whose names may not even be remembered. And the books are but the smaller part of humanity’s memory. A glance back as I climb, and I see some of the bullets have passed across the rotunda into the Memory Blossom, long, stacked cases of bioglass that—when gazed into from the level above us—together resemble the shape of an unfolding rose, of memory unfolding at the touch of the love of the living, the way a rose unfolds at the touch of sunlight. The cases hold and preserve not books but other artifacts rescued from a dying earth, objects brought here by the wives and husbands and brothers and mothers of the beloved dead because these were objects the dead cherished—the dolls and pocketwatches and earmusic implants and squares of colorful fabric orphaned from lost quilts, thimbles and photographs and crucifixes and scraps of paper with Daoishi spells inked on them, and even a long-dead artificial heart. Bioglass does not shatter, but I can see the perfect circular punctures where the bullets penetrated. Inside one of the cases, a tiny sculpture of blown glass that someone—perhaps the craftsman’s child—carried lovingly across the forests of Persia or the deserts of the Sudan, all the way here, has shattered. Its shape, which was that of an elephant, is fragmented; it can’t ever be put back together. Leaning half against the violated case, a young woman lies dead, her face shattered as completely as the elephant. A death that should not have happened today.”

What is your favorite fictional library?

The Memory Blossom was a concept my readers and I developed together on Patreon, which I often treat as a workshop to cook up and test ideas that then work their way into the stories – because storytelling is a communal act. The idea was how might our descendants, after devastating global crisis and near extinction, preserve the memory and knowledge of their pasts – how might they do this as they grieve? And when one of my readers (the thoughtful and lovely Genevieve Bergman) reminded us that refugees carry memories of the past that are encoded in objects and relics and photographs of the lost, not only in texts, the Memory Blossom was planted. I like how it grew.That is the kind of conversation my readers and I have on Patreon, as each book takes shape. Come join us there – get all the ebooks, fun the books, and help me create a fictional library or a bizarre device or a dangerous new creature. You never know what delicious mischief we might get up to, together. You can join here:

I hope you will.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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New Release from Stant Litore

Well, here we are. 2021. I think, looking back at the onslaught of the past year – and looking ahead at the hard work of the new year, my energy is very Yang Xiao Long (from RWBY): “Yeah, I’m scared…but I’m still standing here.”

If you need an escape after 2020 – and you want to see what I’ve been writing during the pandemic – here is a new book: Incursion. It’s the first book in a new series, The Dakotaraptor Riders!

From the back cover:

Looking for a thrilling tale with lesbian dakotaraptor riders, were-brachiosaurs, Slavic witches, triceratops cowboys, carnivorous cacti, and invaders with machine guns mounted on deathreaper tyrannosaurs?

If you’ve been looking for a series like that, Stant Litore has your back. In Incursion, join Sasha Nightwatcher and her wife Yekaterina on a wild dash across the violet prairie to save their alien homeworld.

You can pre-order here. The paperback edition will be available for order later this month.

Or back my work on Patreon and start reading it today with your membership.

A bit from the book:

Here’s a passage from the book that I feel keenly here at the end of one year and the start of another:

In my memory, I have just fallen from Ihira’s back at high speed and I am winded. Ihira stands nearby in the grass, waiting for me. Mom reaches her hand down, but I don’t take it. I can’t, Mother. I can’t.

Her voice is deep and melodic, a voice for braiding up the night with. Yes, you can.

I keep falling. It’s too hard.

Get up, daughter.

Just let me lie in the grass a moment, Mom.

She crouches beside me, hands between her knees. She looks at me. Her hair is black as night, her eyes gray as steam rising from the flanks of a ceratopsian herd. Her face and hands are wrinkled and strong and kind. She moves them, signing as she talks, as our people often do. You keep falling, do you?

Yes, Mom. Tears of shame burn against my eyelids.

You know what you have, Sasha?

I shake my head.

She takes my hand in hers, presses the smooth metal surface of the Founder’s book into my palm, closes my fingers over its pages. The book is still warm from her hand. You have a bruised hip, two bruised ribs, a cut lip, dirt on your cheek. And you have the Founder’s book and your mother’s stories and the blood of a nightwatcher in your body, and you have a whole lot of hope in your heart. You have hope, Sasha. That’s what you have. Hope. It’s the best thing that ever was or ever will be. Spun from stories, stronger than medicine, older than this world. Hope is what braids our lives together. Hope carried our people between planets and hope carries us through the red rain and hope will carry you. So will Ihira. Now get on your feet, daughter, and get in her saddle and ride.


“Straight for the heart and delightfully weird.” – Joseph Brassey, author of Skyfarer and Dragon Road

“Stant Litore’s Incursion brings a new and fantastic universe alive, packed with vivid characters and colossal beasts—yet amidst the story’s intense action and swirling dilemmas, he never loses sight of his raison d’être: the power of human connection.” – Richard Ellis Preston, Jr., author of Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders

“In these dark days, we need reminders of what makes us human: community and song, collaboration, story and hope. The Dakotaraptor Riders gives us those reminders. Woven onto the warp and weft of a rich folklore that feels completely authentic, and yet contains threads that will make contemporary folklorists grin, this tale of clashing philosophies, racing dakotaraptors, and abiding love is a salve for a wounded soul. It reminds us not only that the fight can be won, but that the fight is worth waging against the forces of destruction, of cruelty and colonialism. This book is The Dark Is Rising for science fiction. Read it, and let it braid your frayed threads whole again.” – O.E. Tearmann, author of The Hands We’re Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild)

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New Book from Stant Litore: On The Other Side of the Night

New from Stant Litore: On the Other Side of the Night (How Science Fiction and Fantasy Can Help Us Through Our Dark Hour)

“We are enduring the long night. Our people are ill and dying of a new disease. Our societies, at home and abroad, are beset by fascism—a shadow that, like Sauron’s in Mordor, has found new opportunity to take shape and grow again. Climate change sends devastating heat waves, forest fires, and hurricanes to our shores. At every hour, faces on television and voices on Twitter are telling us to fear, fear, fear, like the drumbeat of our heart going too fast. Tragically, because death or extinction is too terrifying, because disease and ecological disaster are too frightful, we turn our fears on each other instead. Those others, they are what we must fear, our leaders and too many of our storytellers insist. We are being asked to accept small-minded stories that make our hearts smaller, when we are in most need of larger stories that make our hearts bigger.

“When this time passes, if we strive only to ‘go back’ to how things were, to the injustices and unsustainable complacency that constricted our society before the pandemic, then we will be the most pitiable of fools. This is a time to imagine better, improbable, impossible futures. How we make it through this long night together will be dependent on the stories we tell and the stories we are willing to hear, as we face each other across the fire with our backs to the long dark. There are gifts of hope tucked inside these tales like trinkets or treasures tucked inside nested Russian dolls. Here, I’ll show you what I mean. Come closer to the fire. Let’s talk.”

Find the book here, in paperback and kindle editions:

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She-Ra, Cleaning the Couch, and a Day at House Litore

River, my ten-year-old, was cleaning under the couch and was getting frustrated, so I told her she’s doing a better job at it than the Princesses of Power and the Best Friends Squad would.

“Really?” she asked.

“Yep! Just think. Princess Plumeria would see the problems under that couch and be like, ‘I will plant potatoes and strawberries and GIANT PURPLE FLOWERS in this couch!’ Poof. Potatoes everywhere. And pretty flowers. But STILL a mess. And Mermista would be like, ‘Ugh, really, I’ve got this, I mean, if it has to be done, I guess,’ and would lift her arms like this and SPLASH, FLOOD THE COUCH with waves and dolphins and little wriggly jellyfish, but it would still be a mess, just a wet mess. And Frosta would be like, ‘Stand back, princesses!’ ZAP! and the couch would be FROZEN.”

River: “Oh no! It would freeze your BUTT if you sat on it!”

Me: “Yep. It sure would. Not a good solution. And Bow would shoot an arrow at the couch…”

River: “And the couch would be covered in green goo!”

Me: “Yep. And Glimmer would be like SPARKLE SPARKLE SPARKLE! TAKE THAT EVIL COUCH! AAAAA! SPARKLE SPARKLE!!!! and it would be the shiniest messy couch in the universe. Even the dirt would be shiny.”

River: “Ew! Shiny dirt!”

Me: “And Adora would swing her sword and shout FOR THE HONOR OF GRAYSKULL and she’d be like, I’m gonna SHE-RA HEAL THIS COUCH!!! except Chop, slash, chop, she’d cut the couch in two!”

River: “Then there’d be TWO dirty couches!”

Me: “Yep. And then Catra shows up and she’s like, ‘Heyyyy Adora,’ and she tries to take care of the couch but she goes Scratch, Scratch, Scratch, and now the couch is all cut up…”

River: “Hahahahaha!”

Me: “And Catra goes ‘ARRRRRGHHHHH THIS IS SO FRUSTRATING, here, Scorpia, you do it.’ And Scorpia is like, ‘Yes! I’m on it! I’ve got to do this for Catra! Clack! Clack! Wow, this is really hard when you’re a scorpion princess and you don’t have hands, clack! clack! Don’t worry, Catra, I’ve got this, anything for my Catra, clack! clack!'”

River: “Catra’s so mean.”

Me: “Yeah, she’s a REALLY bad friend.”

River: “But what about Entrapta? She has moving hair!”

Me: “Oh yeah, so Princess Entrapta designs a bunch of tiny robots that pick up all the crumpled papers and half-eaten cookies and then she hacks the code on the vacuum cleaner and names the vacuum cleaner Emily and it vacuums up all the dust while Entrapta hangs upside down from the ceiling watching and enjoys a plate of tiny food. And she monitors how long the job takes and correlates all the data and says things like, “For SCIENCE!” and is like, “Faaaaaaascinating.” And then the couch is clean and spotless and Entrapta’s already distracted and busy programming the fireplace to open portals to other planets. Entrapta’s got this. She’s a scientist. But you’re literally doing better with that couch than ANYone else on the Best Friends Squad.”

River: “Whoa.”

Me: “So. What did we learn from this?”

River: “Learn all the science!”

Me: “You got it, River-bear.”


Stant Litore writes fiction about gladiators on dinosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, and time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future, as well as books about ancient Greek and sacred texts. He also teaches intensive crash courses for writers on character development and worldbuilding. You can find all of that on this website.

Young River is awesomeness incarnate. She likes She-Ra, mathematics, mysteries, and rockclimbing.